Minimize the collateral damage, Senator Pacquiao

Published July 10, 2021, 12:09 AM

by Rj Nieto


RJ Nieto
RJ Nieto

I have been observing Senator Manny Pacquiao’s political moves lately, and I think most of you will agree that his statements sound like someone intent on committing political suicide. Sure, we should expose and fight corruption whenever we can, but we must first attempt to gain a reasonable level of certainty when we start hurling allegations.

Take, for example, that press conference where Pacquiao alleged that P10.4 billion worth of Social Amelioration Program 2 (SAP2) funds was missing.

According to Pacquiao, DSWD contracted payment processing partner StarPay to handle SAP2 for 1.8 million beneficiaries. And because the StarPay app was supposedly downloaded only half a million times, over 1.3 million SAP2 beneficiaries remain unaccounted for. I don’t know how he came up with the P10.4 billion figure, but I can only surmise that he multiplied the 1.3 million by P8,000, or what NCR SAP2 recipients are supposed to receive.

Pacquiao’s analysis is shoddy at best. Google Play store data puts StarPay’s total download count at anywhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000. StarPay also has an iPhone app, and it also distributes SAP2 benefits using over 10,000 physical payment partners like pawnshop networks.

Moreover, while StarPay handled part of SAP2, the regions it managed excludes NCR. SAP2 payouts are based on regional minimum wages, so regions outside NCR are paid much less. In StarPay’s case, the highest payout amount per beneficiary it handled is just P6,500 (Central Luzon).

Yes, Pacquiao’s math skills are cringe-worthy, to say the least. For a voter like me, that isn’t reassuring…  especially coming from Pacquiao who apparently wants to become the next president of the country.

The Social Welfare Department wasn’t Pacquiao’s only target. He also attacked the Defense Department’s frigate deal, the Health Department’s medicines purchases, and the Energy Department’s electricity policies.

Pacquiao was basically running amok. But just like the DSWD allegation, Pacquiao failed to substantiate any of the claims he made against the other three agencies.

I never saw Pacquiao as an intellectual behemoth, so I wasn’t really surprised at his analytical skills, or the lack of it). What surprised me, however, is his decision to hurl unsubstantiated allegations like there was no tomorrow, threaten to hold Senate Blue Ribbon hearings like there was no tomorrow, then leave the country to train for his bajillionth boxing fight the next day.

I asked myself, “Has Pacquiao lost his mind?” If he has gone nuts indeed, then the debate is over. Hanlon’s Razor, after all, states that we shouldn’t attribute to malice what can be sufficiently explained by stupidity.  That is, it’s just a crazy man talking.

President Duterte has finally snapped. And we’ve been witness to the usual word war. Sure, many Mindanawons may like Pacquiao, but far more like Duterte. If Pacquiao wants to succeed Duterte, the latter’s support is crucial, and that’s not happening anymore.

Why not win 2022 first, gain near-absolute power as president, then expose the corruption? That’s a far more logical course of action for Pacquiao. Why is he in a rush to attack the administration whose support he’ll badly need? Duterte will step down in less than a year, so why is he in a terrible hurry?

Pacquiao may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I would like to believe that he’s neither crazy nor utterly stupid. Given the magnitude of his attacks, stupidity as a justification just won’t cut it anymore. Thus, I decided to re-read his statements and re-watch his press conferences for the nth time, so I can somehow find a possible method to his madness.

I noticed that the myriad corruption allegations he hurled so far, while woefully unripe, have a common denominator, and that common denominator is not President Duterte. If my observations are correct, he is trying to bring down a possible rival for 2022, albeit poorly.

Occam’s Razor tells us that the simplest explanation is usually the best.

It appears that Pacquiao didn’t intend to attack the president, but only a subset of the President’s Men. In short, it seems that what we’ve been witnessing is just another pre-election political catfight. Unfortunately, Team Pacquiao isn’t as skilled as Team PNoy when the latter destroyed Vice-president Jejomar Binay and Chief Justice Renato Corona.

If I were Pacquiao, I’d go back to the drawing board, use my coconut and every other coconut at my disposal, and salvage whatever options there are left, if any.

Borrowing Shakespeare’s words in Macbeth, Pacquiao may end up spending everything and gaining nothing.

Because right now, he seems to be engaging in a political operation with little consideration for collateral damage. Worse, much of the collateral damage is inflicted on himself… and his ambitions.

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